Date: February 2008
Author: Harriet Jennings
Headline: Interview: Tegan and Sara
The Canadian twins Tegan & Sara are back in the UK for a whirlwind tour. Neu! caught up with Tegan for a quick chat about drunks, Brits and old buildings.
How do you and Sara write songs together and decide who plays which part?
Well, we're 27 now and we've been writing since we were 14. We used to write separately and then bring everything together. Sara would often write the lyrics and I'd work out the guitar and vocal parts. It's practically the same now. We live in different cities so we tend to record something on our own and send it to the other by mail or email.
Which instrument do you prefer to write and play with?
We tend to fight out writing on guitar. Most of our songs are vocals and guitar and I guess that's what we're most comfortable with. We've got to expand our horizons. We've got 8 years of classical piano training that we're using more. I don't actually prefer either.
Your popularity in the UK is on the rise, how does it feel to be playing bigger venues?
Really good. We were all really suprised at the response at the summer tour. The managers and the record company were really surprised. The tour sold out before we even got here! It's hard to measure what amounts to success because in the UK we tend to do really well with live performances but don't sell as many records. We used to try to push the live shows but now we're starting to prioritise both. To be able to play music full time you can't just stay in one country. It's nice to travel to new places.
How do British fans differ to American and Canadian fans?
In the past it was difficult to compare because we had so many more fans in the States and Canada. We had bigger crowds there. In the UK they tend to be more into the music, I think. They sing so loud and they're so excited. Everyone is really positive, they don't hold back. I think that's really special when people let themselves get into it at your gig.
Which is your favourite Tegan & Sara song to play live?
'Are You Ten Years Ago' is a bit out of the box compared to our usual stuff. There's a thousand parts all happening at once. It's more difficult to play so I'm more focused and I give it more energy. When it's over, I feel like I've accomplished more by playing it.
What did you think to the White Stripes' cover of 'Walking With a Ghost'?
I liked it! I think it was really well done. It was such an honour because they're such a big band and we don't know them or anything. It was a bit random; they just did it!
How do you think appearing on soundtracks such as Grey's Anatomy has influenced your career?
In America and Canada we weren't seeing much radio play for our first two records. TV shows like Grey's Anatomy are huge because that's a lot of people you can reach. TV and movies are becoming like the new alternative radio because instead of paying millions of dollars for a big artist to appear on the soundtrack, they go for someone smaller and a bit different. In shows like Grey's Anatomy and One Tree Hill, they almost use the songs to make a music video, which is awesome because it's like a minute and a half of a song with hardly any dialogue over it. Because we weren't getting much radio play we needed a bit of a boost and when you're out there a bit more and becoming a bit more mainstream, you get more radio play.
Do you ever get sick of each other?
I get sick of everyone. I need lots of alone time.
What's your favourite thing about touring?
It's a bit of a contradiction but I really love all the people we tour with. I miss them when they're away. At the same time, the monotony of a tour can get overwhelming. In general, I just like to play music. It's nice to wake up in a different city everyday.
Which is your favourite UK city that you've visited?
In the last tour, I think Manchester. The audience were nuts! I stopped singing half way through the first song because they were singing so loud. I thought Brighton was really nice but that's because I was excited to be so close to the water. Even though we've been coming to Europe for so long we're still not over it. We get so overwhelmed by all the old buildings. It's like, "wow, that building's over a hundred years old!"
Your live shows tend to revolve around funny little anecdotes. Are they important to you?
Yeah, I think it's important to keep things interesting. If we were just playing the same set night after night we'd get so bored and detached from it all. It makes the show into more of a performance and it ties everything in together so it flows.
What has been your worst live experience?
Back in the day, bearing in mind we've been touring ten years, we did some awful support slots. I remember one time we played with Rufus Wainright and there was this man in the front row that shouted at us to "shut up and let Rufus play." Sara swung the mike away, bent down and said, "fuck you." Being a support act can really suck. At the same time, I loved touring with all the bands so it kind of makes up for it. It's just drunk people trying to get their moment. They have no musical talent so they just insult people.